April 2, 2013 at 9:40 pm (Tokyo)
I spend a lot of time in this newly poshified business district near Tokyo Station, and I have great fun counting the customers – the average is usually one customer every two shops. I have absolutely no inside evidence on this at all, but I have a theory which seems to match the circumstances that a business student of mine who works round there agreed might be the case.
The whole area is owned by Mitsubishi Fudosan and they have put an awful lot of effort into giving it a whole new image, so it is my theory that they offer (only) designer shops cheap rents to give Marunouchi the cache that they want. Something that backs this up is that there is not a single Uniqlo or even Starbucks in the area – and those and even down and dirty coffee shop chain Doutor are in the actual posh(ish) shopping district of Ginza.
March 28, 2013 at 7:51 am (Japanese freetime and hobbies)
In class, in meetings, and in trains (fairly often on strangers’ shoulders) and for most of a daytime bus or plane ride, it seems nodding off is the most natural of all Japanese reactions.
According to a recent edition of the BBC radio programme The Why Factor, cultures can be divided into three by how they sleep, with the two who don’t keep it all for the night being divided into siesta cultures (like Spain) and nap cultures (like, as they mentioned, Japan).
I think there are also both more random and deeper reasons.
As an example of the former, the main reason that napping in class is okay in Japan is that schools rarely stream by level and so there are students in the lesson for whom the teacher’s best possible hopes is that they sleep quietly rather than read manga, play with their mobile phones or get actually disruptive. Parents usually don’t mind either, because the useful study is done in cram schools in the evening. And when it comes to university, it’s almost impossible to fail and club activities are seen as incredibly important, so nodding off is only natural.
In a similar way, Japanese companies often tell people to come to meetings for no reason at all, and sleeping is considered a rational way of dealing with that – as well as a healthy sign that you are working yourself to death as you should.
For reasons like this, people simply get into a habit of sleeping, and that habit sticks. I do believe there are deeper reasons, though.
The main one is that there is no pressure to have internal motivation to keep yourself going, so if the social pressure is off, why not sleep? More specifically, that ridiculous pressure in the UK (or just London?) to rush around in your free time to tell everyone on Monday how cool and productive your weekend was doesn’t really exist – hence the “How was your weekend?” “I slept and cleaned my room” conversations that are the bane of Eikaiwa teachers.
March 27, 2013 at 7:14 am (Japanese nature, Japanese seasons)
We do call it “cherry blossom” in English, after all…
From the Wikipedia cherry blossom page:
“A cherry blossom is the flower of any of several trees of genus Prunus, particularly the Japanese Cherry, Prunus serrulata, which is sometimes called sakura after the Japanese (桜 or 櫻; さくら). Many of the varieties that have been cultivated for ornamental use do not produce fruit. Edible cherries generally come from cultivars of the related species Prunus avium and Prunus cerasus.”
This forum also explains that some ornamental cherries do produce (small and crappy) fruit, but that might be a disadvantage because the fruit both makes a mess and attracts birds which make more mess. Someone also adds that there are ornamental versions of other fruit trees (such as ornamental pear trees) that similar things are true for.
March 23, 2013 at 8:37 pm (Japanese food and drink)
According to the BBC radio programme From Our Own Correspondent, it’s because the Japanese climate is actually totally unsuitable for growing apples and so each apple has to be wrapped in cellophane while they grow on the tree.
March 21, 2013 at 9:01 pm (Japanese laws and rules)
A man indicating to me that I shouldn’t jump over a fence into a deep hole in the pavement never fails to irritate me, and I know I’m not alone in that reaction. According to the BBC radio programme From Our Own Correspondent, there is an actual regulation that imposes a certain number of such people on every construction project, presumably just to keep unemployment down – and I always try to remind myself of that to keep the annoyance down…
March 21, 2013 at 2:17 am (Japanese health, Japanese nature)
I knew it was a man-made problem, but didn’t know the details until I read The Economist this week. After WWII the sugi trees were planted to provide material to rebuild houses, but after import tariffs fell it became too unprofitable to even be worth cutting the trees down. It’s not just the sheer number of trees that is responsible, though – as they grow higher, each tree emits more and more pollen every year.
March 2, 2013 at 8:14 am (Japanese music)
The law was changed so that music retailers could import CDs themselves, so the local record companies added the extra tracks so that they could still try to sell the horribly overpriced editions of CDs (which even now cost at least 30% more than imported versions). That this makes them something that music obsessives in other countries like the teenaged me will pay double or triple the price for is just an added bonus for them…
February 28, 2013 at 6:11 am (Japanese women)
For those who aren’t familiar with the idiom, this has no connection with Genghis Khan-style barbecue restaurants or the continuing resistance of the Japanese public to the smell of lamb chops, but rather refers to older women dressing like their daughters or even granddaughters. I blame the also huge number of mother and daughter shopping couples, which I don’t know what to blame on…
February 26, 2013 at 11:18 am (Japanese business and economics, Japanese fashion)
This changed seemed to happen slightly earlier abroad than in Japan and I also saw Uniqlo advertising “Japanese technology” in their winter underwear, it seems like a deliberate move from wanting to be generically international to wanting to have a specifically Japanese image. As I know nothing of the internal decision making of this company obviously talking about the reason why would be pure speculation, but here goes anyway with three possible theories:
- It was an internal decision to bring back some national pride to the poor Japanese salarymen who were being forced to use English in the headquarters in Japan
- It was a reaction to the success of the faux-Japanese brand SuperDry
- It was due to the expansion of Uniqlo in China, where everything Japanese is either cool and worth a premium price or evil and worth burning, depending on the day
February 23, 2013 at 6:49 am (Japan and the UK, Japanese food and drink)
Went back to the UK for the first time in 2 years a couple of weeks ago, and the snack “wasabi peas” was everywhere. It’s no means that common in Japan – how did it become so popular back home??